Sunday, 27 February 2011

Christchurch Quake Experience -real perspective!

Tuesday 22nd was a pretty wet and dismal morning, and i had a later than usual start to my day, giving me a nice relaxed hour or so to work on training schedules before setting off to the IM talk 'studios' to record an interview for next (this) week's show. It was good to see john and bevan ,who i'd not seen since last year's Epic Camp, and we recorded about half an hour of chat about my year and transitioning form age grouper to professional triathlete. Quite a lot of focus was around financing this move, goal setting, making race choices and whether to 'target' kona other aspects of the lifestyle that differ from doing triathlon as a 'hobby'. I will write some posts on these areas in the near future.

I left the studio in St Martins around 9am, still raining so, unenthusiastic about my 3hr reps session in the cloud covered port hills I pulled into a mall for a breakfast bun and coffee as the weather cleared up a little. Despite the poopey weather the session went well and I had just got home, made a coffee and lunch was settling in for an hour or so of work on a few athletes schedules before my track and gym sessions at QE2 when there was that familiar rumbling and jolting of an aftershock.

Since our arrival in October last year, these have been a fairy frequent occurrence, and although alarming at first, Steven and I had become quite used to it. They had also been dying down and far less frequent as the months went by. But this one's a biggie, I thought, as the shaking seemed to escalate rather than die down as usual. And the intensity seemed to continue mounting - I was pretty much frozen to the spot with fear on the bed, not that i could have really done much with the room shaking and objects starting to fly around the place as they were! I could hear stuff in the other rooms smashing and crashing around. The reality is that the shake probably lasted all of about 10 seconds, but it seemed like a long time before the world was still again. I tried the door of my room to go survey the damage, but it was jammed in the frame. The windows were on restricters so in order to get outside (which i was pretty keen to do!) I was going to have to break a window, I thought. Still wearing my bike jersey, I had a very useful multi tool in the rear pocket, which i realized i'd be able to use to undo the fixtings that limited the windows...and climbed out to find the terrified dog and screaming neighbours and the road in our cul-de-sac sort of folded up on itself with water gushing up from the depths of the earth. In the house was areal mess and the power had gone out. I set about clearing up and wondering what to do next. There were several large aftershocks during the next hour, which had me running outside again. The neighbors who had also been home that time were also wandering around, shell-shocked - in the street, seeking comfort from one another's stories in the confusion and fear about the rest of their households. Being a tuesday afternoon, Steven would be at the cinema and after an hour or so, decide i'd head out towards there. To my relief, he appeared just as i was leaving - it was a lot worse beyond our own street, with knee deep floods and broken roads and jammed up traffic and it had taken him 90 minutes to walk and wade the 2km home.

We are very fortunate - despite all of us being in different locations around the city, the household are all fine and were soon all assembled in the house. Shaken and a wee bit stirred. We spent the afternoon together, telling our stories, discussing our options what to do now and checking over the damage. An evening reading by candle light and listening with gut wrenching horror as the news of damage and tragedy in the city center slowly began to unfold over a small battery powered radio. Despite being a smaller magnitude than the earthquake that the city was just about recovering from last September, the center was both shallower and closer to the city. These factors all manifest in a lot more surface movement and structural damage to buildings and hills alike - and the fact that it was the middle of a weekday, sadly it was clear from very early on that there was a significant death and injury toll. The numbers are still coming out as communications have made it very difficult for people to contact and account for their missing friends and relatives.

Having decided that without water or power, with rain dripping in through the light fittings and that one doorway totally inaccessible (suggesting that the structural load paths of the building had been sufficiently compromised) we probably should not stay there another night, we packed up and headed to Ali's parent's farm in Ashburton. We were fortunate to have this option, and having driven a low route through accessible roads and crawling traffic that wednesday morning, were able to leave the reality behind and watch it on TV. This made us feel somewhat 'guilty' of course - seeing other's working clear the roads and find water and food for their family. Let alone the hundreds of volunteers with the heartbreaking heavy work of search the wreckage of the city centre for those trapped in fallen buildings. It was actually an opportunity to get to know our house-mates a little and do some training together - a very rare occurrence as they have very busy lives and must usually fit their training around work.

Our return to Chirstchurch yesterday it was a little sad to see the state of the place but also quite uplifting to see how people are really helping each other out - teams digging the roadways clear, those with water (wells or still connected) going around and making sure other have it, even letting strangers in to shower. People giving free food from the front of their house to those working in the streets, writing up signs with information or even just messages of care. There are reports of looting too, of course, but these few acts of incomprehensible selfishness are more news worthy than the millions of acts of kindness we see. The level of organization, sound public information and general common sense is impressive and it seems that on the whole people are reacting extremely responsibly to the difficult conditions.

As the rest of the Ava place household are heading up to Taupo for the Ironman ( Andrew, who's P3 locked in his city center office on Tuesday has been offered the loan of a bike by so many friends and the race organizers have even put him in touch with Cervelo for a loan of a P3) I'm currently staying with his extremely hospitable and generous parents on the west side of town, which has been less effected by the damage. We just felt quite an aftershock just now! but water and power - even internet! - are still connected here. I have withdrawn my own entry to Ironman New Zealand, which was rather a tough call but my recovery/fitness has been questionable since Wanaka and last weeks trauma and disruption really I lost my focus for this race. I feel I'm better saving the cost of the trip and spending some time on a build up for ironman Lanzarote in May.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

reasons to race - and finding perspective

After Wanaka Steven and I took a proper holiday touring around some of the classic tourist spots in the south island. We made a pact to leave our laptops switched off for 5 days - and survived! We visited Milford sound, did a little kayaking there and then returned to Wanaka (which I preferred on account of it being a lot warmer and drier!) for a couple of days and did a cruisy ride over the Crown Range. I had a bit of time to explore the walking tracks around the lake, leaving Steven in the 3D maze at puzzling world! bless 'im. I've also had plenty of time to reflect on the race, and my performance there.

There are many reasons for me to race - but the most important and motivating is the belief that it's an opportunity to achieve one of my goals. At the start of the day in Wanaka, I was deep down seeing many reasons why the day would not turn out that way for me. Getting paid is also a goal of course, and i was fairly confident off that outcome in this case, but it's just not enough to really get me fired up into race-mode. Later on in the day, I began to realize that although the conditions were horrible, I have previously excelled in races where the conditions have been extremely tough - but the point is that I was not believing that on the start line, and that effected my whole experience. Might have even effected the outcome of my race.

Part of this is an underlying feeling that I'm close to raced out. I had a very fun and exciting period of racing from May to August last year, where every race just seemed to get better for me. I'd put in a long consistent winter block of training prior to the start of the season, and then continued to build specific fitness as I raced through the summer. The highlight for me was qualifying for Kona at IM UK - though that did mean one more race 6 weeks later, rather than the planned break from sept - oct before preparing for Ironman WA in December. Of course there was no question of tuning this opportunity down and i gave it no thought at all as I signed the cheque for my Kona entry!

The World Champs was amazing experience but frankly, a disappointing performance - certainly after the high of IMUK. Looking back I feel that this was the start of the next period in my year - one of regular racing through the fatigue that I'd accumulated during the summer without a chance to fully alleviate it in the short turn-around between races. Kona, IMWA and Wanaka were all great experiences for various reasons, and this period has been beneficial for me as an athlete but non of them did I feel I'd raced any better than 'OK". There are many reasons to race, as i've said, and gaining experience, developing and refining race strategies, course and race venue/organisation familiarity, and sponsor exposure are all very useful at this stage in my career, as well as the physical strength that this regime will have built in me. However, this must be balanced against the overriding drive towards those personal goals - and at the end of the day: enjoyment and long-term health.

It's been a long time since there hasn't been an imminent race on the horizon, and no matter how many you do - racing an Ironman IS a big deal and I still get nervous thinking about the next one, become preoccupied with what's best for that race rather than the longer term training plan. So, my feeling is that it's time to move into a new phase - and therefor Taupo is in the balance. I do have an entry and I admit, I think that it sounds terrible not to be fully commited to the event, but that's the reality of racing as a professional and trying to make a living out of the sport, especially in the early phase of a career. There are so many opportunities to race now, and we do have the luxury of being able to get a relatively late entry - but I had to make my decision just days after Wanaka and before I could really assess how well I'd recover from that and set about preparing for the next one 6 weeks later. Having made the decision that i do have the option NOT to race IM NZ, i'm freshly motivated by some focus on skills and specifics, with more recovery and freshening up for each session for the next month or so. Already I'm feeling the benefits of this and if this continues then chances are good that by march I'll be feeling great and ready to race - and be on the line at Taupo, but for now I'm not thinking that far ahead.


What else? well, since returning to ChCh, getting back online and having a bit more time with less training to do, I've been keeping myself busy arranging he logistics for our EverydayTraining Camp which is coming up in April. It's our first experience of organizing something on this scale and it's a pretty rapid learning curve, but most of the details are now in place. We have some great nutritional support thanks to Powerbar, athlete's recovery will be taken care of by For Goodness Shakes and they'll have their aching bodies cared for by The TriTouch. The accommodation is a friendly hotel that we've been using as our training base in Peurto del Carmen for years, and we have some great crew coming along to give Steven and I some back-up during the week. The next phase is the fun part - detailing the camp schedule!

I've been spending a little more time with my coach Scott, taking about future plans and training ideas, and this week has seen me back in the gym, back with the swim squad and backing off the ride/run volume a bit. I'm doing well with my diet, thanks in part to Ali's veggie patch, and this combined with my return to gym work is seeing me trim up a little already. I have a sort of love/hate thing with the gym - in that i've never really liked training indoors and never really look forward to my workouts - but find them strangely addictive and usually enjoy it once I'm there. I do find that for me, gym-work really seems to kick-start my metabolism and i seem easily trim up and gain definition on my return to regular gym routine. I can be a bit of a meat-head too, and when I read about Gordo's Big Steel Challenge or January, although I'm starting it late I've started tracking the weight of steel I'm shifting in a session. I reckon i'll easily move 350 tonnes this month.